Twice a year, soccer fans are treated to an exciting window where their favorite team is allowed to buy, sell, and trade players. For most leagues, the transfer windows are from June 1st to August 31st, and January 1st to January 31st. Some leagues like to be different, like Major League Soccer in the United States, which has a completely different season that results in different transfer windows. While in recent years, journalists have become increasingly knowledgeable in transfers, especially in the English Premier League, the excitement of the transfer season comes from a lingering idea of signing a marquee player. Before journalists got their hands on transfer information early, teams were able to do their business in the shadows, which led to immense excitement when a team would sign a player out of the blue.
One of the most historical signing announcements comes from my favorite team, Arsenal Football Club. In 2001, Arsenal quietly signed Sol Campbell, one of the best defenders in the Premier League, and captain of Arsenal’s fierce rival, Tottenham. Campbell had finished his contract at Tottenham and before the club could get his signature on paper, Arsenal swooped in and signed him. The transfer was made known when Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger, called a press conference and out walked Tottenham captain Sol Campbell. Campbell went along to win the Premier League twice with Arsenal, after being trophy-less for years at Tottenham.
This signing is a good example of how they went before journalists had all the information today. In the Premier League, no signing goes under the radar. Journalists like Fabrizio Romano are the first to break the news to the fans, and often get to it before the club releases their announcement video. Because of this, Premier league teams have had to shift their focus and announce signings in new ways. A good example of this is Erling Haaland’s transfer announcement when he moved to Manchester City in the Premier League from Dortmund in the German Bundesliga. Haaland is currently in his first season in Manchester, and has scored over 25 goals in just 23 games. Haaland’s father, Alfie, was a player for Manchester City in the early 2000’s, and Fabrizio Romano had made it widely known that Erling would follow in his fathers footsteps. Because of the access to information that journalists have, Manchester City was forced to use a different angle to build excitement in the announcement of their player. Manchester City waited, and waited, until the idea of Haaland joining them had been out of sight and out of mind for many fans, and then released their announcement. This allowed the club to slowly build up more hype for the player than if they had announced him immediately after Fabrizio Romano had said he would move to the club.
My favorite signing announcement of all time is another one that comes from my favorite club, Arsenal. In the January transfer window of the 2017/2018 Premier League season, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang signed for Arsenal FC, linking up with his former teammate, Henrick Mkhitaryan. The two players joined forces once again for Arsenal after playing together only a few years earlier at Dortmund in the Bundesliga. In the announcement video, Mkhitaryan says “Yo Pierre, you wanna come out here?” a homage to famous producer Pierre Bourne’s tagline. The video was released on twitter with #yopierre, which was a hashtag used in the masses by fans tweeting about Aubameyang’s arrival. The video also features clips of tweets that say “here we go,” which is what journalist Fabrizio Romano says when he knows a transfer is 100% complete. “Here we go” was made popular, along with Fabrizio Romano, when he was the first to break the news of Neymar Jr. 's record transfer to Paris Saint Germaine from FC Barcelona, a transfer that broke the internet.
So, what is the science behind the signing announcement? It can be broken down into three factors. The three parts highlighted in this post are shock, excitement, and popularity. When announcing a signing, a club needs at least one of the three factors. Shock can be used when there is very little known about a transfer, which was the case for Sol Campbell. Excitement can be used when everybody knows about a transfer, yet it is able to excite the fans in the same way as shock. Finally, popularity is used when a club uses pop culture to announce a signing to the fans. This could include popular music, hashtags, and even memes (example below).